On October 18, Native Hope became the first recipient of the annual Johnny Klingler, SCJ, Social Action Award. Representatives of the US Province Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission presented the award on behalf of the province. The ceremony – including presentation of a $1,000 check – took place in Chamberlain, SD, where Native Hope is based.
The award was created to honor Fr. Johnny Klingler for his decades of commitment to social justice, and to recognize individuals or groups who exemplify the Dehonian charism of dedication to “ministry to the lowly and the humble, the workers and the poor” (Rule of Life #31).
“The Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission asked the Provincial Council to create this award to ‘lift up efforts that touch people’s hearts, transform personal attitudes, and spur others on to action,’” said Mark Peters, US Province JPR director. “All of the groups we considered did some of those things, but none did all of those things the way Native Hope did, or for a population that needed it more.”
Native Hope’s mission is to bring healing and hope to Native people through storytelling. Established in 2015 in partnership with St. Joseph’s Indian School, it seeks to “dismantle barriers and inspire hope for Native voices unheard.” That includes a Fellowship Program to empower creativity and leadership in Indigenous Peoples and their communities, celebrating education as a lifelong undertaking that raises self-esteem and opens new horizons for youth, honoring and embracing Native culture, and addressing the real issues of teen suicide, domestic abuse, and sex trafficking that plague life on the reservation.
Native youth get mentoring and support through Native Hope’s Leadership Society, and Native Hope Ambassadors have spoken to audiences throughout South Dakota. It also sponsors other community groups and agencies, such as a safe house for women who’ve been trafficked, a program for grade school girls that encourages positive development and lifelong physical fitness, and another that recruits and trains advocates for abused and neglected children.
A key to Native Hope’s approach is seeking out valuable stories that align with its mission. Their filmmaking team produces videos about these stories, told by those involved. Native American staff members work in places like Marty Indian School, Job Corps at Nemo, SD, Aurora Plains Academy, and McCrossan’s Boys’ Ranch to empower youth to connect culturally, spiritually, and personally. This work impacts hundreds of Native youth and seeks to empower them to own their story and move forward on a path of healing.
Since 2016 they have promoted the Red Sand Project to educate the public about sex trafficking at various community events, including the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota (sex trafficking is often connected to such large-scale events), where Native Hope staff were joined by members of the Sacred Heart Center in Eagle Butte.
The JPR Commission invites people to nominate a person or organization for next year’s award. Click here to contact Mark Peters about making a nomination. The award is given by the JPR Commission, with review of the Provincial Council, in the name of the US Province.